As I sit back and reflect on the last four years of my life, it’s amazing to think that something as “trivial” as where I decided to continue my education would shape who I am, how I think and who I consider to be my “forever friends.” I would never have guessed that I would come out of Emory the person that I am now. Two years ago, I definitely wouldn’t have thought that I would make it to the end. Something about sophomore year being the longest year, junior year being the hardest and senior year being the most rewarding added up to an experience that I could not be more grateful for. I think that’s what made my experience one worth having – it taught me how to have gratitude. All of the good, bad and bittersweet things that happened to me and around me left me a life changing and humbling perspective on my personhood. College encouraged me to decide for myself what’s actually important. And as I head towards the stage to collect my diploma, I look back most fondly on the intelligence and dedication of my professors; the diverse array of cultures, people and language that paint this campus in color; and my most welcoming and loving family of swimmers and divers.

Graduating does not mean leaving behind “the best four years of my life”; rather, it means using those four years to catapult myself out of adolescence and into adult(ish)hood. I like to say that if you come out of college the same person you came in as, you did something wrong, because too much is happening around you for you not to notice that you could be a better version of yourself, and because we can all be better versions of ourselves. So, no, I am not sad that college is over. I have immense gratitude for the people, education, experiences, toils, community and memories it afforded me. However, there is just one thing I am certain I will miss, and that is being constantly surrounded by 70 of my closest friends – the Emory University Varsity Swim and Dive team. Whether I’m walking across campus, studying in the library, or eating at the DUC, the team ensured that I would be bound to see a familiar face. I started and ended everyday of the last four years with this group, and that will always be my hardest goodbye.

Anya Koné is from Columbus, Ohio. She served as a member of the Emory swim and dive team.